February 9, 2005


Minn. Sen. Dayton Will Not Seek a Second Turn (Frederic J. Frommer, February 9, 2005, The Associated Press)

Minnesota Sen. Mark Dayton, a first-term Democrat atop the Republicans' 2006 target list, said Wednesday his party could field a stronger candidate and that he would not run for re-election.

"I do not believe that I am the best candidate to lead the party to victory next year," Dayton told reporters. "I cannot stand to do the constant fund raising necessary to wage a successful campaign, and I cannot be an effective senator while also being a nearly full-time candidate."

He did not take questions. His office declined several requests for an interview.

Dayton's decision is expected to clear the way to an expensive open-seat election battle in a state that has become more receptive to Republicans in recent years.

This is just the first retirement they face--Jeff Bingaman will supposedly follow shortly; John Corzine will likely win the NJ gubernatorial; Maria Cantwell is deep in debt from last time and five others are age 70 or older (Byrd, Kennedy, Sarbanes, Akaka, & Kohl). Then they have to hold three seats in very Red states: Ben Nelson (NE); Bill Nelson (FL); and Kent Conrad (ND). A Democratic Party stunned by Senate losses in '02 and '04 faces an even worse cycle next time.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 9, 2005 6:07 PM

All true for incumbent Dems. Let me add, recruiting capable Democratic candidates to challenge incumbent Republicans is just as daunting. Perfect storm?

Posted by: Luciferous at February 9, 2005 6:34 PM

What Democrat is sitting in Minnesota who would be a stronger candidate than the incumbent Dayton? Ventura? Alan Page?

Posted by: Bart at February 9, 2005 7:11 PM

Brave, brave Sir Dayton!

Posted by: ghostcat at February 9, 2005 7:38 PM

Just about any Democrat would be a stronger candidate than Dayton. The only thing, period, that he had going for him was his incumbency, and as he himself taught Rod Grams, that's not enough.

Posted by: Timothy at February 9, 2005 7:46 PM

We need a real historian to start telling uas about comparisons to other periods of gross political realignment in our history. Surely the same sort of thing was happening when other bygone political parties were going under.

Posted by: Lou Gots. at February 9, 2005 9:01 PM

Lou Gots:

Historically, with the exception of the almost total collapse of the Republican Party in 1930 - 1936, the year to year decline is not particularly steep.

The faithful can always point to those contrarian islands of success that give hope without real substance. Just search the internet to see how many Democrats are citing their success in Montana or Colorado in 2004 as a model for their future.

In addition, random chance and the electoral calendar can artifically maintain political dominance. During the period 1960 to 1988 there were three Republican Presidential landslides (1972, 1984, 1988), one Republican solid victory (1980), one Republican narrow victory (1968), two Democrat narrow victories (1960, 1976) and one Democrat landslide (1964).

Despite this general record of Republican dominance at the Presidential level, the Democrats controlled the House of Representatives for all 28 years and had control of the Senate for 22 of the 28 years. They also had lopsided majorities in the number of state legislators, despite the fact that Republicans frequently held a majority of the state governors.

The election of 1958 was a disaster for the Republicans because it occurred at a time that optomized the Democrat's opportunities to lock in a long term numerical advantage at almost everly level of governance.

For reasons that seem almost quaint now, the voters turned on the Eisenhower administration in its sixth year in office.

The state legislatures that were thus artifically packed with Democrats oversaw the redistricting after the 1960 Census, locking in artifically high Democrat congressional and state legislature advantages in states like Claifornia and Michigan. by gerrymandering the legislatures the Democrats also got to gerrymander the Congressional districts in most of the larger states. It took until the election of 1994 to finally undo the effects of of the 1958 election.

The heavily Democratic senate class of 1958 had an unusually high survival rate when it next faced the voters in the Goldwater debacle of 1964. Its next time up was in 1970, when, despite Nixon's best efforts, the Democrat advantage was only narrowly reduced. Its next time to face the voters was in the post Watergate year of 1976 when it also fared well. It was not until the Reagan era that the disproportionate Democrat hold on this Senate class began to diminish.

It is my contention that much of the "realignment" that we are witnessing now actually occurred much earlier but was masked by decades of relentless Democrat gerrymandering. Now that the worm has turned, the number of articles in the leftist media decrying the evils of "partisan redistricting" is amusing to observe.

Posted by: Earl Sutherland at February 9, 2005 11:17 PM


Again you have stated the truth.

The Democratic victories in Colorado and Montana said more about GOP weakness, incompetence, venality and stupidity than about any nascent Democratic strength. The GOP victory in the Hawaii governorship in 2002 was an analogous reaction to decades of bossism and corruption from the Democrats.

Note to all politicians, behaving as if you have a sense of entitlement to your office does not win you votes.

The Democrats will have a problem as long as they are perceived as being weak on the WOT and don't provide a serious alternative economic vision. The culture warriors of both sides of the divide merely bore or irritate most voters. Nobody but the extremists wants to hear from Gary Bauer or Rosie O'Doughnut.

Posted by: Bart at February 10, 2005 6:26 AM

Earl: Good analysis. I strongly agree that the artificial "life support" of the purported DemocRAT majority accounts for the precipitiousness of its collapse.

My question, however, pertains to 19th Century trends. What is the record of party-switching and decisions to spend more time with the family among, say, No-Nothings and Whigs?

Posted by: Lou Gots at February 10, 2005 9:57 AM

The only major American political parties that have ever dissappeared were the Federalists and the Whigs. By "major" I mean parties that were important enough to ever control Congress and win a Presidential election. (By this token the only other "party" to win a presidential election, the National Republicans in 1824, does not count since it never controlled Congress.)

After making an inside deal to make sure that Jefferson won the 1800 election the Federalists never regained significant power and were gradually absorbed into the Democratic Republican party. Their national leader, Alexander Hamilton was shot (murdered?) by the Vice President and they devolved into a series of local organizations, primarily in parts of New England, New York and South Carolina.

Their total dissappearance took twenty years but by 1820 the United States was essentially a one party country.

Four years later the United States was a multi party country, the only time save 1860 when that was arguably true. Interestingly 1860 was the last gasp of the Whig party, in the form of the Constitutional Union party, which apparently thought slavery should be "...safe, legal, and rare."

The last (and second) Whig to be elected President was Zachary Taylor, who was really a Democrat, in 1848. Like all Whig Presidents, he died in office. The Whig party went out of business but the Whig politicians did not, becoming Democrats, Southern Democrats, or Republicans, and in many cases, more than one of these.

Posted by: Earl Sutherland at February 10, 2005 10:53 AM


The fate of Whiggery is actually a bit more complex than that. There's a lovely discussion in James McPherson's Battle Cry of Freedom which I will attempt to summarize here. The Whigs were sort of the ultimate mushy-middle centrists, more a bundle of compromises than a coherent ideological group. Naturally, then, Whigs came in several flavors, including "Cotton Whigs," who thought slavery should be "safe legal and rare," and "Consience Whigs" who were abolitionists. The Conscience Whigs eventually started calling themselves Republicans, leaving the Cotton Whigs to become Constitutional Unionists and, shortly thereafter, Confederates.

Posted by: Mike Morley at February 10, 2005 1:35 PM

John Tyler was one of those "cotton Whigs". Former President Tyler supported the Constitutional Union Party in 1860 and led a peace delegation to Washington on the eve of the Civil War. Tyler, Like Lee, chose Virginia over the Union and served as a representative to the CSA Congress until his death in 1862.

Posted by: Dave W at February 10, 2005 11:44 PM